From the Business Journal
published on July 20, 2018
by Jeremy Lydic
CANFIELD, Ohio — Growing up on his family farm, Mike Naffah says there wasn’t much to the area that would become a commercial corridor leading into Canfield. U.S. Route 224 was still just a two-lane highway that ran past the Naffah farm, today’s Ironwood Commons.
“My brother and I would just wait to see a car or a truck come by on the road,” Naffah says. “And now we’ve got about 38,000 a day coming through here.”
Since Naffah, president of Naffah Hospitality Group, began developing the property at 224 and Raccoon Road more than 10 years ago, its commercial profile has diversified to include an assisted living center with Briarfield’s The Inn at Ironwood, the Hampton Inn & Suites hotel and restaurants Bob Evans, Ruby Tuesday and Inner Circle Pizza Canfield.
This year, a partnership with restaurateur Tony Scacchetti will see the addition of Scacchetti’s Ironwood Grille nine years after Scacchetti closed his Boardman restaurant. He operated an Austintown location for 12 years.
“Our end of town needed an upscale restaurant,” Naffah says. “And this is the answer that we need.”
Naffah has known Scacchetti for decades, so when he heard his friend was leaving his position as executive chef at Tippecanoe Country Club, “It was like the perfect storm,” says Naffah, who was seeking new ownership of the Whitefire Grille and Spirits, 6500 Ironwood Blvd. He immediately called Scacchetti.
“I said, ‘Tony, where you going?’ He said, ‘I’ve got a few places I’m going to talk to,’ ” recalls Naffah, who was out of town at the time. “I said, ‘Don’t talk to anybody until I get back into town.’ ”
It didn’t take much convincing, Scacchetti says.
“I knew I wanted to do something,” he picks up the story. So when Naffah made the offer, Scacchetti started calling some of his former employees, including his sous chef, line cooks, bartenders and servers.
“I said, ‘Hey, guys. I’m getting the band back together,’ ” Scacchetti says. “There’s going to be a lot of familiar faces and some new ones too.”
Many of the past employees had been with Scacchetti for several years, so “I can rely them,” he says. “It all made sense. Everything just started falling into place real quick.”
It took about three months to clean up the space and make updates, including seating and lighting, he says. Much of the changes were made to the main dining room, which used to have “Sinatra-style” corner booths throughout the whole room, restricting diners’ view.
“Nobody wanted to sit in here because they couldn’t see each other,” Scacchetti says.
He kept a few booths in the corners of the room and replaced the rest with tables and chairs. The walls are decorated with local art that is for sale. The wine room was updated with seating and lighting fixtures and will be used for overflow dining as well as private parties for up to 60 guests.
Between the two dining areas and the bar area, the restaurant sits about 200, he says.
The covered patio section offers a view of the Ironwood complex and is large enough to accommodate diners and a solo musician, Scacchetti says. While he has a few more updates in mind, he says the building is otherwise in great shape.
“When they built this building, they did it right,” Scacchetti says. “You can see the quality in everything that’s done. What you could do here is endless.”
Scacchetti’s will feature a traditional steakhouse menu with some small plates, steaks and chops, burgers and sandwiches, and some signature dishes that include seafood. He will employ about 65 to 70 people to start and has interviews lined up, but won’t start hiring until he obtains a liquor license. “As soon as we get that license, it’s going to be quick,” he says.
He’s already getting a lot of support over social media, including Facebook and Twitter. After working at Tippecanoe for nine years, he says he built a reputation among Canfield residents. Given the building and the location, Scacchetti says the restaurant should do well as Ironwood continues to expand, drawing more traffic from the Route 224 corridor.
Two years ago, Naffah broke ground on an11,000-square-foot plaza that today houses AT&T, Rubosky Chiropractic & Wellness, Ghossain’s Gourmet Mediterranean Foods and the new Dave’s Cosmic Subs. Another 2,300-square-foot space is still available in the plaza.
Naffah is planning another 30,000-square-foot plaza behind the one on 224, he says. Development won’t begin until he’s lined up the proper tenants, he says, noting it will include retail, services and offices.
Even after the second plaza is built, there is still another 10 acres of commercial property and 14 acres that Naffah looks to develop with residential space that he hopes to break ground this fall.
From commercial to residential, Naffah has worked closely with the township, which helps find ways to ensure all regulations from the Ohio EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are met, he says.
“You have to figure out the right way to do it,” he says. “They’ve been good to work with.”
And as for Canfield’s future, he says the corridor is ripe for commercial development and has plans to continue expanding.
“Canfield is ‘Main Street USA’ as far as I’m concerned,” Naffah says. “It’s great to see it grow like this and I am so glad to have been a big part of making changes in Canfield.”